The sun finally reappeared this week after what seemed like a month of absence. I figured the best way to celebrate the end of dreariness was a couple of prairie hikes. I started by wandering along a creek at our Platte River Prairies to see what the resident beaver family had been up to. Green sunfish slipped in and out of hiding places in the deep pools behind beaver dams, but little else was moving in the water. Later, the sound of frantic chirping turned my head in time to watch a sharp-shinned hawk just miss its prey. I couldn’t tell what kind of bird the hawk was chasing because it didn’t stop flying until it was out of sight. I also caught a quick glimpse of a small mouse scooting through the thatch, spotted a perched eagle in a far off tree and flushed a small flock of mallards from an backwater wetland. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
Later in the day, I stopped at our family prairie and roamed around until the sun went down. As the sun dropped, its warm light illuminated the golden brown prairie and I managed to take a few photographs – something I’ve not done much of lately. Here are a few of those photos.
A stiff goldenrod seed is stuck in the velcro-like hairs on the stem of a plant of the same species. Helzer family prairie, Stockham, Nebraska.
A Flodman’s thistle (native species) stands out against the sky.
The spiny beauty of Flodman’s thistle seed heads.
Tall dropseed (Sporobolus compositus) in golden light.
A stand of stiff goldenrod and mixed-grass prairie.
Happy Holidays, and best wishes for your New Year!
I made a quick run out to our family prairie this week to see how our grazing management was looking. It was a beautiful evening for a stroll, as the sun went down through layers of diffuse clouds. The abundant rain this year has fueled tremendous growth in the prairie and has filled up the wetland to its rim. As planned, a portion of the prairie is short-cropped by cattle grazing while other areas are either ungrazed or lightly grazed, and there was a lot of life on display.
Grasshoppers and katydids exploded around my feet as I walked around – most of them clearly adults since they were flying short distances before landing again (they only get wings after their final molt into adulthood). They were joined by hordes of other invertebrates, including caterpillars, bees, butterflies, and many others. I flushed a great horned owl from a big ash tree, and then was very pleased to see a rail (probably a Virginia rail) dangle its feet as it flew across our recovering wetland. Here are a few photos from the night.
I’ve seen this same species of caterpillar in a couple places this week. This one was munching on false boneset.
Dotted gayfeather and stiff goldenrod were both abundant uphill from the wetland.
A close-up view of dotted gayfeather.
Our wetland at sunset. The addition of a couple solar-powered wells for livestock water has allowed us to exclude cattle from the pond/wetland area, and the habitat improvements are obvious.
A quick note of thanks: This blog quietly passed two milestones this week. I posted my 500th post, and we passed the 1,800 mark on blog subscribers. Thank you for your continued support of this site – I hope it’s as useful and enjoyable to you as it is to me.